SportsCenter defines routine. There is something wonderfully assuring about the show”s guaranteed appearance along your channel-surfing route at certain early-morning hours. Late at night, whether studying, partying, you keep seeing bits and piece of the ESPN”s “flagship” program, which it plays ad infinitum.
“Oh, yeah I saw the Knicks highlights when I stopped at home before Yeah, I heard the end of the Giants” game was ridiculous. I want to see that at some point tonight.” For sports fans, the constant stream of the boys from Bristol is like a warm bed it”ll be there waiting for you at the end of a long day.
But Osama bin Laden screwed it all up. We were left with what my friends and I referred to as “bizarro-SportsCenter.” If we watched other television shows as religiously as SportsCenter, we would have coined “bizarro-Letterman” or “bizarro-Total Request Live.”
This bizarro phenomenon was the result of a decision by the powers that be, which suggests that everyone in the country ought to mourn together, simultaneously.
Are they right? On one level, there is something vulgar about a broadcast that deals exclusively with a topic as relatively trivial as sports to air so soon after an attack like on Sept. 11. On the other hand, some people want to see sports highlights if for no other reason than as an escape. Granted, there were no sports being played that Tuesday, or during the following week. What resulted was a SportsCenter that had become an alternate reality of itself. Fewer flashy graphics, catchy intros and segues, no witty bantering between anchors. It was a SportsCenter devoid of humor and fun.
And that”s a problem. I”ve felt for the past few weeks that I need to laugh. There”s nothing funny about what happened in New York, but there”s nothing really funny about TRL, either. There are some who say that bin Laden, or whoever perpetrated the attack on the 11th wanted to disrupt our “American way of life.” Whoa. Big words. What does that mean? It seems to mean bizarro-SportsCenter. It seems to mean an America that has lost its “swingin” “90s” sensibilities and needs to sit Shiva for a while.
A few nights ago, I watched Craig Kilborn”s late-night talk show where he revealed his (or his network”s) plan for gradually reintroducing humor back into his show. It was all so calculated. CBS and Kilbourn seem to know when it”s time to start laughing again when producing a show based on sarcasm and satire will be profitable again.
CBS, ESPN, CNN, NBC, et al. are trying to dictate the pace of our recovery. They are in an advantageous position, as 24-hour broadcasting has become the ironically unidirectional town meeting of the 21st Century. If NBC never let Leno tell jokes again, that would greatly influence the emotional and psychological state of this nation.
I don”t want NBC to have any influence in that. I don”t want CNN to do a segment on “returning to normalcy.” Those networks are there for a reason, whether it be 24-hour news, 24-hour sports, 24-hour “Friends” They are not there to tell America how to feel, and when to feel. I”ll laugh when I”m ready to laugh. Ted Turner can do the same.
America has revealed itself to be too self-aware. We have progressed through the stages of denial, anger, grievance, etc. at an accelerated pace. It has been accelerated due to the rapidity of news cycles and our access to information. It has been accelerated because MSNBC found that airing the footage of the crash can only be profitable for so long, even if people are not yet done grieving, or coming to terms with what happened. It has been accelerated because ESPN found that bizarro-SportsCenter ought not to last too long, because most people want the comfort of hours upon hours of Trey Wingo and Co. to return.
America is made up of individuals it is not a market, or a target audience. Don”t allow Brian Williams or Bernard Shaw or Peter Jennings to tell you when to cry, or when to laugh. Time will heal your wounds your wounds, on your own time bizarro-SportsCenter will not.
David Horn can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.